Tina's Speech for International Womens Day 2016 - delivered as part of the Bureau of Gender Affairs event held in the Digicell Store and broadcast live.
I must start by saying how pleased I am at this show of collaboration. Standing together against the evils of violence and abuse.The problem of danger in our closest relationships is one that knows no class or colour barriers, and has no political or religious affiliation.
On International Womens’ day we celebrate our identity and we stand against discrimination on the basis of gender.We stand with those who live with guilty secrets, with those who live in fear of retribution, with those trapped in what they know to be unhealthy relationships, with those stuck in dependent and addictive situations.
Lifeline is unashamedly a faith based organization and we have to have faith in God when faith in man is shaken so often by stories from children and women of abuse and exploitation.As a Victim Supporter, I have sat in Casualty with rape victims trying to pretend we are there for something else, as the bored crowds stare and fantasize.I have listened to grown women tell of their experiences as children which scarred them forever.I have talked with Gay men who were introduced to transactional sex as teens and who know no other way of life. I have heard of vagrants being gang raped, and wealthy individuals hiding their black eyes and bruises.
Under the law as it stands, married women are told that they cannot legally refuse their husbands sex unless they are legally separated, nevertheless no one has a right to violently assault you, even if they are married to you.
DNCW has a long history of being a haven for women trying to find the courage to say that they will leave and not return to relationships that are dangerous and in some cases life threatening. Many women and girls have found their way down King George the Fifth Street to speak to Vanya David, Ophelia Linton, Delia Weekes and more recently Tina Alfred. These friendly women listen, advise and support without being judgmental and you will not find your information becoming a beff on the road.
Our Helpline, being launched today, is born out of the collective experiences of DNCW and Lifeline and is aimed at those who need advice about how to report and courage to face their situation and do something.Our service will be available 24/7 on 1800 744 3629 (DNCW) these free calls will be automatically forwarded to a responder.
All the responders have been trained to help with up to date information about both Government services and those offered by NGOs, such as those that belong to the NGO Coalition for the Protection of Children and youth. We also have information about counsellors, victim supporters, and support groups. We can direct you to Crime Stoppers for anonymous tips and explain the process of reporting to the Police or Welfare. All our responders report to a qualified supervisor, either a counsellor or social worker who will ensure that we respond professionally. Just to be clear, we are not taking reports we are helping people to have the courage and the information they need to make the report.
This project was funded by the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives and included seven public meetings with Community members in Portsmouth, Salybia, Mero, Roseau, Grand Bay, La Plaine and Marigot. We shared about Recognising the signs of abuse, Reporting cases of abuse, and Recovering from abuse. We consulted over 200 nurses, teachers, pastors, parents and survivors and have come up with a brochure based on these discussions.
The project also funded some improvements to the facility at DNCW so that the support groups and training could be better hosted in confidential surroundings. We received a total of CAN 25,275.00. This is a great example of how a strategic grant can influence a culture of a nation.
We know ours is not the only initiative, government agencies have been improving and publicizing their protocols and NGOs such as ChildFund and CARIMAN have been playing their part. However, abuse in the family is a National problem - we all need to stop turning a blind eye.
There is tremendous therapeutic value in "Breaking the Silence". When victims speak out they disempower the perpetrator and expose him or her in their weak, shameful behaviour. They take the first step towards recovery. They join with the vast majority who say violence and abuse has no place in our homes and communities.
Share your story in the right place, to the right people, and let us change Dominica's reputation. We do not want Dominica to be known as somewhere where it is easy to "Pay for Play", Where child sex and pornography is available with one sext or wat's app message. NO! We want Dominica to be known as somewhere that is unusually tough on sex crimes, especially those with children; where society as a whole takes its job of protecting children seriously. This is not just about Government it is about all of us.
Finally, a special plea to those who have lived with their painful memories for decades. You were probably not the first or the last victim of your abuser. There is no statute of limitations for rape. Please grab your courage and speak on behalf of the child frozen in time inside you, you will be saving another child from going through what happened to you.
So, the number again: 1-800-744-3629
To the Officials:
When children make statements before the authorities they should feel confident and trust that these reports will be kept confidential until arrests have been made so that their safety is not compromised. They need to be sure that their cases will not be lost or discontinued without just reason. They need to be confident that the investigation will be processed swiftly whoever the accused may be. They should be assured as well that where necessary they will be assisted in obtaining a restraining order.
To the Media:
When children make statements Don’t Forget they are MINORS and protected by law from exposure in the media of ANY identifying details until there is a VERDICT; these include name, address, age, school and other specific identifiers.
To the Public:
Individuals are legally innocent until proven guilty in court; we need to avoid jeopardizing the case by warning those accused so they can lawyer up or even leave the country.
To Parents and Guardians:
If someone offers you money to not proceed with a court matter this person is committing a crime. If you receive the funds and drop the case, YOU are also committing a crime. If someone offers you cash, take it, along with a witness immediately to the police at the highest level who will keep it as evidence of a crime.
To the Children and Young People who are thinking about telling their story:
Abuse is not just intercourse. No one has a right to touch you sexually without your consent and if you are under 16 it does not matter if you consent or not. No one should send you porn or ask you to send them nude pictures, or engage you in sexting. This is illegal and can result in the person doing it going to jail. We will stand with you to help you make your report and to do the right thing to stop the abuse. Do not delete the pictures. We will help you Recognize what is Abuse, Report it, and Recover from it.
On all matters of violence and various assaults on children, we,the members of the Dominica NGO Coalition, will continue to promote the safety and security of children, particularly those affected by sexual assault and we will continue to oversee that due process prevails towards the realization of justice. Remember, all children, just as adults, deserve to be SAFE, STRONG, and FREE!